Utility-Terrain Vehicles – Are They Regulated?

This notice is to be used only as a quick reference tool to establish the preliminary classification of a vehicle based on its unique characteristics and configuration when compared against the definitions in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and associated Regulations. Users are directed to the Regulations for current definitions and safety standards applicable to their respective class of vehicle.

Transport Canada is issuing this notice to clarify the proper classification of utility-terrain vehicles (UTVs) under the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSR). Many off-road UTVs are equipped with on-road features to the point of meeting the definition of an on-road vehicle.

Transport Canada looks at these UTVs on an individual basis to assess their on-road capability. This ensures that vehicles designed with on-road capabilities are not improperly classed to get around federal standards.

Typical ATV

UTV

It is important to note that while some off-road vehicles are regulated, others are not. To properly understand how UTVs are considered under the MVSR, we must first clarify how typical all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are regulated.

The vehicle definition “ATV” falls under the regulated class of “restricted-use motorcycle” (RUM). That definition requires that the vehicle be fitted with steering handlebars. A UTV is not regulated as a RUM because it is not equipped with steering handlebars. Therefore, UTVs are not regulated under the MVSR provided the UTV meets the ATV definition, i.e. that the UTV is designed primarily for recreational use or for the transportation of property or equipment exclusively on undeveloped road rights of way, marshland, open country or other unprepared surfaces.

If it appears that the vehicle is not designed exclusively for off-road use because it has enough design features for practical on-road use, it may be deemed to meet the definition of an on-road vehicle. If this is the case, the importer/manufacturer must demonstrate that the vehicle complies with all Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) applicable to the most suitable on-road vehicle classFootnote 1.

If compliance to the applicable standards is not shown, the vehicle cannot be manufactured or imported into CanadaFootnote 2. If there is no clear design intent for the vehicle by the manufacturer regarding on or off-road use, Transport Canada considers the vehicle to belong to a regulated class of on-road vehicles.

OFF-ROAD
An off-road vehicle

ON-ROAD
An on-road vehicle

The following criteriaFootnote 3 are used to determine whether a vehicle is designed exclusively for off-road use or not:

  • The original design intent of the manufacturer;
  • The features of the vehicle demonstrate that the vehicle was designed exclusively for use on undeveloped road rights of way, marshland, open country or other unprepared surfaces.  These design features should not be limited to readily detachable components such as mirrors, lamps or tires but instead should include features such as suspension characteristics, driveline characteristics and any other features that are only found on vehicles designed exclusively for use on unprepared surfaces;
  • If the vehicle manufacturer or dealer will assist the importer/end purchaser in obtaining a New Vehicle Identification Statement (NVIS) or a permit (vehicle ownership) to register the vehicle for on-road use; and
  • Whether or not the vehicle is consistently promoted exclusively for off-road use.

Definitions:

UTV: A vehicle that fits the definition “all-terrain vehicle” under the MVSR and is equipped with a steering wheel.

ATV: “A wheeled or tracked vehicle, other than a snowmobile or work vehicle, designed primarily for recreational use or for the transportation of property or equipment exclusively on undeveloped road rights of way, marshland, open country or other unprepared surfaces.” – section 2 of the MVSR

On-road vehicle: A vehicle equipped with design features that enable it to be normally operated and to mix with regular traffic on public roads, including highways, streets, bridges, etc.

Off-road vehicle: A vehicle designed primarily for recreational use or for the transportation of property or equipment exclusively on undeveloped road rights of way, marshland, open country, or other unprepared surfaces.

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